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911 camp teaches safety

Sarah Dixon

At least it looked like one – inside and out.

The Safety-saurus, an ambulance designed to look like a dinosaur, was just one of the injury-prevention exhibits featured Friday during 911 Emergency Training Camp in Avon.

In fact, the Safety-saurus had travelled all the way from Grand Junction tell camper, interactively, how to have the safest summer possible.



More than six dozen local children between the ages of 9 and 13 learned how to react in emergency situations.

“We looked at the statistics of how children in Colorado are hurt or killed, and we try to target those risks,” said Chris Hollandsworth, air-lift paramedic and proud parent.



Displays outside the vehicle promoted safety tips, but it was the inside of the Safety-saurus that really brought home the message of safe living.

A beating heart, expanding lungs, a spine complete with nerves and a dinosaur leg all worked in conjunction, making it possible to simulate what happens on the inside when someone is injured on the outside.

“This is an engaging and interactive way to teach kids about injuries,” Hollandsworth said.



The Safety-saurus’s lungs could even simulate the damage caused by smoking cigarettes.

“I’ve got it wired to spray a little water at the kids when the lungs cough, just to gross them out and scare them away from smoking,” Hollandsworth said.

Next to the Safety-saurus stood an exhibit from the Colorado State Patrol.

A Ford Probe, hardly recognizable, sat mangled and crushed on a trailer next to a story board illustrating the accident in which the car was involved.

“We want a powerful message to enforce the need to buckle up and drive safely,” said Corporal Dennis Gibbons of the Colorado State Patrol. “We also want them to take this message home to their parents.”

The driver of the Probe, a mother of four, was killed when a drunk driver in a pickup truck smashed into her car in 1999.

The drunk driver sustained minor injuries. He is still serving an eight-year jail sentence for vehicular homicide.

A clear message indeed.

Exhibits in the parking lot were only the tip of the safety iceberg, however.

Six stations, manned by members of emergency service agencies, schooled the kids on everything from water safety to self-defense.

The campers, organized into groups of 15 or so, rotated between the following stations:

– Swimming and water rescue.

– Fire safety and the use of extinguishers.

– Boating safety.

– Traffic safety.

– Personal protection and self-defense.

– First aid.

– Calling 911.

“It’s amazing to have so many emergency personnel volunteers here,” said camp organizer and Eagle County Ambulance employee Cathy McRory. “It enables us to be a lot more interactive in our instruction.”

For example, the fire safety station used actual fire – burning gasoline in a contained fire pit – to school the kids about how to remain calm in a fire situation.

“We were able to give them hands-on experience with extinguishers, which can mean the difference between a small flame and a tragic accident,” said Vail firefighter Wade Michels. “We also taught them about staying low if your house is on fire, and setting up meeting places outside the home should an emergency occur.”

The kids seemed to enjoy the healthy mix of fun and serious instruction.

“We saved a little boy,” exclaimed Mellie Morales, a young camper. “He was fake, but we learned how to save him and call 911.”

When asked if they felt they’d learned a lot about emergency situations, the campers answered in a chorus of “yes”.

Grace Clinton told of when her father’s restaurant, Pazzo’s of Avon, had to be evacuated because of a fire alarm.

“I was afraid that it would burn down and he wouldn’t be able to work anymore,” she said. “But now, after today, I would know what to do and how to get out.”

Other campers shared stories of frightening moments and the panic they felt. They unanimously agreed that they would be more equipped to handle such situations having attended the camp.

This was the first such camp to be held in the Vail Valley, and the response was overwhelming, McRory said. All spaces were filled well before Friday.

Furthermore, the community came together to donate nearly all of the goods used for the camp.

“Wendy’s gave us 200 hamburgers,” McRory said.

That is a lot of hamburgers.

Organizers didn’t even have to tap into the grants they received, because nearly everything was given free of charge.

“It’s really nice to see people come together and support such an important cause,” McRory said. “This will definitely become an annual tradition.”

Toward the end of the noon lunch, campers received a special visit from a local hero. A lot of loose hair was whipped into a frenzy as the Flight for Life helicopter landed on the playing fields at Avon Elementary.

A chorus of “wows” and “cools” ensued as the blades slowed to a standstill.

“I want to be an air-paramedic,” one boy exclaimed.

Safety promoted; mission accomplished.


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